The 10 Most Beautiful Interiors in London for Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a great British indulgence, and if you’re going to do it you may as well do it properly: surrounded by elegance and beauty. Here’s our guide to some of the most beautiful interiors in London for enjoying an afternoon tea in style...

Apparently, the ritual of afternoon tea began in the 1840s when Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford decided that the cure for 'that sinking feeling' in the long, hungry gap between luncheon and dinner was to consume a quantity of Darjeeling and sarnies in her boudoir. The idea caught on and, once endorsed by Queen Victoria herself, developed into ever bigger and more spectacular tea receptions, with scores of guests attending. Although it has never gone completely out of fashion, afternoon tea is definitely back in a big way these days, with all sorts of hotels and cafés offering their ‘twists’ on the traditional fare of sandwiches, pastries and cakes. But for us, of course, the setting is as important as the food. So here are ten places in London where you can treat your eyes as well as your taste buds...

1. The Palm Court at the Ritz

Palm Court at The Ritz. Image credit.

Palm Court at The Ritz. Image credit.

We could hardly avoid mentioning Tea at the Ritz, perhaps the Platonic Ideal of afternoon tea – and indeed it justifies its worldwide reputation (five-star service, immaculate chinaware, resident pianist). The fare is classic stuff, with a bewildering choice of loose leaf teas, sandwiches, scones with Devonshire clotted cream and champagne options. And the Palm Court setting is opulence itself, with ornately trellised ceilings, dazzling mirrors beneath birdcage chandeliers and dramatic floral displays. You’ll be transported to a more glamourous alternative reality – which is something that really special interiors can do, of course. Tea at the Ritz, Piccadilly

2. One Aldwych


The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych

Occupying the iconic Edwardian triangular building at the end of The Strand, the five-star boutique hotel One Aldwych offers an afternoon tea experience with a difference. As well as its impressive contemporary art and sculpture collection, which boasts over 400 pieces, you can enjoy the fabulous flower displays created by in-house florist Mark Siredzuk. The building itself is steeped in history and bursting with design features, including the well-known curved corners, coppered cupola dome, plus all the cornices and balconies you could possibly need.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired cocktail

The tea itself is rather different. It’s inspired by Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and includes golden chocolate eggs, homemade candyfloss and Blueberry brioche. One Alwych, The Strand.

3. The Wallace Restaurant at The Wallace Collection


The Wallace Restaurant © The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection on Manchester Square is one of London’s best galleries, with an astonishing collection of fine arts, porcelain and furnishings. In fact, it is simply one of the most beautiful places in the capital full stop. The Wallace Restaurant is a perfectly-realised, airy, indoor-outdoor space, complete with sculptures, trees and natural light flooding in through the glass ceiling. A classic afternoon tea is on offer, with the option to add a glass of champagne. But do go and indulge yourself in all the other interiors of this extraordinary house. The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square

4. B Bakery

Routemaster bus. Image credit.

Routemaster bus. Image credit.

And now for something completely different... afternoon tea on tour! The B Bus allows you to munch on an array of tasty French-inspired morsels while being driven around London's major sites in an original Routemaster bus... So whether you find this interior beautiful rather depends on your view of vintage omnibus designs. But it looks terrific fun in any case.


Routemaster bus. Image credit.

(You could also try the B Afternoon Tea Boat, where you can sample scrumptious sandwiches and pastries while sailing alonging the River Thames on a private motor yacht. Or should you prefer dry land, there's also an afternoon tea salon at Brigit's Bakery in Covent Garden.)


5. W Hotel


Library Lounge at W Hotel. Image credit.

Moving even further away from tradition, the bold, strikingly contemporary interiors of the W Hotel in Leicester Square. In the Library Lounge you can enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea with a punk theme (yes, really!). For example, the Anarch’Tea adds shocking reds, whites and blues to the humble Battenberg – and serves it on a vinyl cake stand.


Anarch'Tea at W London. Image credit. W Hotel, Leicester Square

6. The National Portrait Gallery


Image credit.

As an interior, The Portrait Restaurant is elegantly minimalist – which is wise as there is no need to detract from the astonishing panoramic views from the vast window. You can see a host of London’s major landmarks, including Nelson's Column, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye, so this is one to take your tourist friend along to. Afternoon teas offer seasonal touches inspired by the museum's exhibits. For example, to coincide with the Picasso portrait exhibition the Restaurant offered a Fernande Bellini paired with a rose and orange macaron representing the artist’s Rose Period, and a sugar-encrusted blueberry éclair denoting his Blue Period. Portrait Restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery

7. The Rubens at the Palace


Image credit.

The Palace Lounge at The Rubens, which overlooks the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace, offers a Royal Afternoon Tea in a suitably distinguished setting, using layered browns and reds, plush furnishings and Empire-themed decorations for a grand but comfortable atmosphere. The tea is one of the best available in London, with delicious cakes and pastries freshly prepared in the dedicated pastry kitchen – including the Queen's favourite jam pennies, and red velvet cupcakes inspired by the House of Stuart. The Rubens, Buckingham Palace Road

8. Emmeline's Lounge at Conrad London St James


Emmeline's Lounge. Image credit.

Situated within the chic Conrad London St James, Emmeline's Lounge is named after the 19th century political activist Emmeline Pankhurst. It’s a bright, contemporary and luxurious setting, complete with striking yellow love seats and a unique ambience created by a live harpist who plays modern pop songs in a classical style. The teas are as sophisticated as the surroundings, with Executive Pastry Chef Zoe Wager offering unusual, seasonal delicacies, sandwiches and cakes. Conrad London St. James, Broadway

9. The Gamble Room at the V&A Café

V&A Café © Victoria and Albert Museum London

Gamble Room at the V&A Café © Victoria and Albert Museum London

You’d expect afternoon tea at the Victoria & Albert museum to be a grand experience – what with it being the world's leading museum of art and design and all – and indeed, it is. The Café is a series of spectacular, interlinked rooms reflecting different design movements including the Japanese-influenced Poynter Room and the eye-popping High Victorian-style Gamble Room (above).

10. ...and the Morris Room at the V&A Café


Morris Room at the V&A Café © Victoria and Albert Museum London

Meanwhile, on Sundays the Morris Room (designed by William Morris, the most important figure of the Arts & Crafts movement) offers an authentic Queen Victoria's Afternoon Tea, which recreates delicacies from the Victorian period such as Mrs Beeton’s cucumber sandwiches and fruit sconelets. Yes, the V&A Café is so beautiful that it merits two entries on our list! The V&A, Cromwell Road

So there we have it: our choice selection of beautiful London venues for enjoying the great British institution of afternoon tea – but if we've missed your favourite, do let us know! And if you enjoyed this, you might like our "Most Beautiful" guides to hotels and restaurants in London, and National Trust interiors.

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